A Little Bit of Background

Parts of this blog chronicles my exciting adventures as a part-time (or ‘reduced load’ as they seem to want to call it) student in the University of Sydney’s Master of Teaching program, within the primary schooling stream, aka USyd MTeach (Primary). The intention is primarily for it to encourage my to write critically about my readings and experiences – if anyone actually reads it, well that’s a nice bonus (and a big ‘hello’ to you!). You can spot entries related to my endeavours as they have all be categorised as ‘Master of Teaching’.

It has been interesting watching people’s reactions when I tell them I am studying to be a primary school teacher. In a way it is frustrating, as I sometimes would like to explain the big picture, and get their thoughts on things – but often I feel a little self-indulgent giving them the whole back story. But, this bing my blog, I thought I would include it in case it is of any interest. And the best way to do that seemed to be to include the short piece I had to write as part of the application process, explaining why I wanted to do the course, and what I felt I would bring to it…

My own schooling began when I was lucky enough to attend an unusual primary school in an idyllic valley in northern New South Wales. Orama Public was so small that each classroom was shared by several years, and the local community was actively involved with school activities. My parents were part of the thriving counter-culture movement in the area and saw themselves as a key part of my education, meaning that I learnt as much at home as I did at school.

This environment planted the seeds of a lifelong passion for learning that I continue to treasure today. I quickly discovered the great joy of facilitating learning and discovery in others. From high school peer support through to postgraduate tutoring and running professional development courses, I have always sought out opportunities to nurture the same passion for learning in others that I enjoy.

My personal affection for learning also manifests itself as an insatiable and infectious curiosity for the world. I am saddened by the number of adults who have decided that the world no longer holds any magic or mystery for them. All around us are opportunities for discovery, imagination and exploration. Children know this, and a vital part of education must be nurturing this curiosity in the hope that they will retain it, along with all the creativity, empathy and inspiration that it brings.

For many years it has been my ambition to provide young people today with some of the inspiration and support that I was lucky enough to receive. To that end, I would like to one day start a school. Many parents today struggle to find options that they feel relate to their ideas about education and the world. They see traditional schooling as built on a set of conventions driven by the needs of an outdated idea of society. More progressive alternatives such as Steiner and Montessori also seem increasingly out of touch with a rapidly changing world.

I believe that there is an opportunity to create a contemporary approach to early schooling that responds more adequately to today’s society; an approach that acknowledges recent advances in child psychology, and is grounded in more socially progressive attitudes toward gender, race, ecology, culture and economy. Such an approach may even draw on thinking from emerging fields such as new media theory and embedded cognition that are beginning to shape our understanding of the way we learn.

While the road to launching such a school may be long and full of unexpected discoveries, a thorough grounding in the theory and practice of teaching and education is a critical foundation. I believe the University of Sydney teaching course will help add theoretical rigour to my thinking, and extend my exposure to ideas in the field. It will also help me gain a stronger practical understanding of the real challenges of such a project, and provide the opportunity to build connections with others in the field that will be invaluable moving forward.

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